Monday, September 24, 2007

Sex and Money

News | Africa -

Episcopal Church bishops are expected to wrap up six days of meetings and ministry in New Orleans on Tuesday with an answer to a request by senior Anglican bishops who met in Tanzania earlier this year...The stakes are high not least because the Episcopal Church, with 2.4 million members, provides 40 percent of the budget for the operating costs of the 77-million-member Worldwide Anglican Communion, as the global church is known, and a substantial amount of the funds for overseas mission and relief work. "If the Episcopal Church is isolated from the broader community or chooses to isolate itself, the work of the global communion will suffer greatly," said Jim Rosenthal, communications director for the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

Was that a threat? What is the "work of the global communion" that requires this funding anyway? Flying bishops around to conferences and employing communications directors to cover the proceedings? Generating more paperwork? Paying denominational bureaucrats "professional level" salaries to push the paper? And what about this "overseas mission and relief work"? Flourishing African churches certainly don't need missionaries from the US and as for relief work, Oxfam does just fine.

What are these operating expenses for anyway? If the Anglican Communion's operations are anything like the activities of our local diocese when I was "involved in the church" I can imagine. The whole operation was a cargo cult--a bunch of overpaid priests pretending to be Fortune 500 company executives: pushing paper, writing unintelligible reports on insignificant matters, hiring consultants and motivational speakers, holding innumerable meetings, flying around to conferences, extracting money from parishes and interfering with their affairs, publishing feel-good publicity materials in hard copy and at their website--but producing nothing.

This is a bubble, like the housing and hedge fund bubbles in the US pumped up by financial middlemen unproductively extracting wealth from the real economy. These bureaucrats got money to finance and expand their unproductive operation until consumers started wondering what exactly they were paying for. For priests to conduct remedial sex education courses? For some diocesan functionary to poke her nose in when parishes were hiring a rector to conduct focus groups, contrive surveys, and manipulate us into accepting the diocesan candidate? For crappy little diocesan educational and youth programs in which few people had any real interest, and which could easily have been done at the parish level if anyone really wanted them? For a 6-figure salaried bishop to come once a year in his fancy clothes to confirm kids? Was this, by any stretch, worth paying for? What bad things would happen if the diocese evaporated? I can't think of anything. And I can't think of anything bad that would happen if the Anglican Communion collapsed either--except of course to the to the bishops, bureaucrats and communications directors.

It reminds me of a history I was reading about a period when the Pope, trying to pressure bad King John excommunicated him and put England under interdict. Business went on as usual: as the writer put it, "not a mouse squeaked." And King John made inquiries about the possibility of converting to Islam.


MikeS said...

Do you have a reference for the suggestion that King John considered converting to Islam? I am intrigued.

Dr. Mabuse said...

Chesterton mentions it in "The Everlasting Man": "What was the meaning of all that whisper of fear that ran round the west under the shadow of Islam, and fills every old romance with incongruous images of Saracen knights swaggering in Norway or the Hebrides? Why were men in the extreme west, such as King John if I remember rightly, accused of being secretly Moslems, as men are accused of being secretly atheists?"

Whether it was really true or not, it sounds like it was part of King John's bad reputation, and it must have dated from the time when this would have actually mattered - i.e. during the Crusades, not many centuries later.

MikeS said...

Thanks for the comment, but I do not regard Chesterton as a reliable source.

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